Turkey and France will face off in the semi-finals of EuroBasket Women on Friday but the hosts had to survive an extraordinary battle with Sweden in Orchies before advancing.
20 lead changes, a real chance of an upset. But ultimately home celebrations, The French out-lasted the Swedes 87-83 in a game for the ages, a compelling, brilliant piece of sporting drama that only wrote its final act at the last.
Celine Dumerc, benched with foul trouble for much of the second half, came back with her team down 77-73 with less than two minutes left.
She hit one three-pointer, then another, then one more. And Sweden – despite 21 points from Frida Eldebrink and 56% shooting – had their brave challenge thwarted as a nation exhaled in relief.
Earlier, Turkey pulled away late to claim a 55-41 victory over Belarus, paced by Saziye Ivegin’s game-high 13 points.
A 15-0 run from Turkey in the second quarter put them in control and although their rivals closed to within four, the Belarussians again failed to deliver their best.
“We had to work very hard against Belarus since they are a very physical team and never give up,” said Ivegin.
“Now I am so happy that because of our defence, which helped to win the game, we will now get to play another semi-final game.
“We have ambitions for the tournament and we are now getting closer to them.”
Elsewhere, the Czech Republic will now play for fifth after defeating Italy 72-68.
A 10-0 run in the fourth quarter helped the Czechs pull away and the Italians’ late reply came too late after they had fallen into an early deficit.
“We are very happy, it was very important for us to start well,” said Veronika Bortelova. ”Our first quarters were really bad in many games, so our coach told us to focus and we did. We were very concentrated on defence.”
Turkey’s win ensured that all top six finishers, now including the Czechs, will go to next year’s world championships.
Sweden will face Belarus on Friday with the winner also booking their tickets to Turkey 2014.
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